Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Aaaand We're Back!

Back to blogging, and back to Blogger!

Who knew the month of December would leave me with not a moment to blog!? I envisioned regular updates on all of our Advent activities. Instead I got busy doing the activities {as it should be, after all} and found no time to sit down and write. I did take photos though, and I do intend to share, probably in one longer recap post. Also, I got involved in making a particular Christmas gift and that endeavor took longer than anticipated- as always! The project was well worth the extra time in the end. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

You'll also notice that we're back on Blogger instead of WordPress. I just couldn't get settled and comfortable at WordPress. It felt like living in a hotel- none of your stuff is where you like to keep it, and you can't find what you're looking for. Coming back to Blogger felt like getting back home and putting all my stuff away where it belongs (does that analogy translate for non-type-As?). Maybe it's because I was so used to Blogger, where I originally began blogging. Maybe it's because WP is really not as well designed. I personally find Blogger much easier to use and much more customizable. WordPress had options, but they were all part of the "upgrade," of course meaning that you had to pay to use them. I also like the Blogger mobile app much better. Again, easier to use. And if I'm being totally honest, easier to use = more blogging. It's that simple.

I couldn't help but notice that 2013 has been my least blogged year on record {except for 2007, my first year of blogging}. While that's a little disappointing, I know it's mostly due to a new {and very cute} little somebody who I'm spending my former blogging time with these days, and I'm just fine with that. I'm looking forward to starting 2014 with a few posts including Advent, Christmas, and 2013 recaps :)

Until then, Happy New Year to everyone! We'll be partying family-style... a special dinner {at home}, followed by naps when then kids go to bed so we can stay awake until midnight. Yep. That is our actual plan. Cheers to being old! :D

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent 2013

For me, there is no more exciting time of year than the Christmas season. I've always loved Christmas and do even more now that I'm a mom. Watching your babies experience the magic of Christmas - from Santa, to snow, to the miraculous birth of Baby Jesus - is like nothing else in the world. It gives me some serious warm fuzzies! So you can imagine my excitement each year when it's time to start the countdown. We celebrated Advent for the first time last year when I felt like Carsen was big enough to start understanding that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Of course, even this year she is a little young to grasp the notion of a savior, but I'm happy to start with the idea that we're celebrating his birth.

Last year, I made an advent calendar using some pretty winter cardstock I had on hand, and some leftover Christmas ribbon. You can read the how-to along with our list of Advent activities here. It was really cute, but it got on my nerves a little with the way it was assembled. So this year, I decided to simplify the calendar itself. I still wanted it to be reusable for future years, though, so I used a piece of foam-core posterboard and a pad of sticky notes. I started by making a calendar grid on the posterboard {it was 20" x 30" so I made 4x4 squares and left a 1" margin on each side of the 30" length}. Then I wrote each of the activities on the back of a sticky note - 23 total this year. Since certain activities are better for weekends or some are better for earlier/later in the month, I used our Google calendar to plan out what activities to do on which days and stuck them on the Advent calendar accordingly.
Once all the sticky notes were in place, I just used silver and black Sharpies to write the countdown numbers on them. I personally like to do the numbers as a countdown, although I know a lot of calendars count up to Christmas. To hang it, I placed a command hook upside down on the back of our basement door. Then I hot glued some ribbon to the back of the calendar and looped the ribbon over the command hook. Voila!

 Originally, I had my heart SET on red sticky notes. In my mind, they were everywhere for the holidays. I mean, they're sticky notes... how else would they capitalize on the holiday season?? In reality, I could find them nowhere. It got to be a few days in when I finally decided to just use blue and go with a "winter" color scheme. They're a little too electric blue for my taste, but I feel that I did the best I could with the resources that were available. I did find a pack of Post-Its that were more of a dark blue and they would have looked better, but I couldn't bring myself to spend $8 on a 6-pad pack when I only needed 23 stickies. UGH. I'll begin my hunt for red {or even a nice true green that's not neon!} for next year's calendar promptly on January 1st.

In the mean time, here's our list of activities for this year:

  • Decorate the tree and our house together

  • Read "The Story of Christmas"

  • Make cards for soldiers

  • Write a letter to Santa {Carsen dictates, mommy writes. Save it in her baby book!}

  • Visit Santa {at the mall}

  • New Christmas jammies

  • Christmas movie night #1 - Carsen's pick

  • Make ice cream cone Christmas trees with cousins

  • Learn about the symbols of Christmas

  • Make paper cone Christmas trees for decorations

  • Visit Valley View Farms {Carsen LOVES looking at Christmas trees in the stores, so this is a huge treat for her}

  • Make brown paper garland {like this} for decorations

  • Christmas movie night #2 - mommy's pick

  • Make gifts for grandparents

  • Make & decorate cardboard "Gingerbread" houses

  • Go see Christmas lights in the neighborhood

  • Read "The Night Before Christmas"

  • Make ice bubbles

  • Christmas movie night #3 - daddy's pick

  • Hot cocoa bar {like the one in this post}

  • Make a birthday card for Jesus

  • Bake cookies

  • Make {prep} a special breakfast for Christmas morning

Some of these are repeats from last year and some are new. As Carsen {and eventually Reagan and any future siblings} gets older there's more she can understand and participate in, so I'll change and adapt what we do each year accordingly.  Some things will probably always be on there like decorating the tree and house together as a family, Christmas movies, baking cookies, and making gifts for grandparents. In the future I'd like to add more service-related activities like volunteering and gathering food, toys, clothing or household items for donations {right now we usually do that around Thanksgiving}.

So far, we have... decorated, read "The Story of Christmas," made cards for soldiers, written a letter to Santa, visited Santa, and gotten new Christmas jammies.





IMG_9974 2

Monday, November 18, 2013

Season of Thanks

Every year at this time people start posting all of the things they're thankful for in their lives on Facebook. I've never participated in that. It just doesn't feel like me. But I do like to put my gratitude out there, so I usually write a blog post. It doesn't change much year to year I guess because I'm a simple girl with a pretty simple life. There's of course much more I'm thankful for that isn't mentioned here, but that would be a much longer post than anyone would care to read. Here we go...

I am so incredibly thankful for every piece of my life. I'm a big believer that all the parts add up perfectly to the whole. I wouldn't change a moment, even the icky ones, because I want to be right where I am. I'm thankful every single day for the people in my life- from my precious little family, to my great big family, to our amazing friends, to those people who pluck my last nerve. They're all part of my life and who I am, and I'm thankful for them. I'm thankful for our health. We don't have to look far to find someone struggling with a chronic illness, who can't seem to catch a break, or who's fighting for his or her life. There's not a day that passes when I don't consciously acknowledge how incredibly blessed we are to be healthy. I'm thankful for our home. I don't love it, but it's ours. It keeps us warm and sheltered. It welcomed our girls home from the hospital and has been the only home they've ever known. It has taught us many lessons that will weigh heavy when we buy our next house, that's for sure. It has been  a place of fun and laughter and family for us- squeaks, creaks, leaks and all. I'm so thankful for our income. In a time when many seek work and can't find it or work half a dozen small jobs to feed their families, we have steady income. And it's enough to afford me the luxury of staying at home with our girls, snuggling, playing, adventuring, teaching, and making memories - where I know I belong. That is something I will never take for granted and never stop thanking God for. I am beyond grateful for the sacrifice of every member of the United States Military and their families. Our lives are what they are because they do what they do. Above all, I'm thankful for God's love and mercy. To live life knowing God's love is a gift I can't describe. Words will never be able to express how thankful I am for a loving, forgiving God.

While a blog post about what I'm thankful for is nice, just like all the posts on Facebook every day, what better way to show gratitude than to give back and pass the blessings on? Each year we kick off the holiday season around the beginning of November by collecting things we no longer need or use and make a huge donation. We take some things to Goodwill, some to a local transitional housing shelter, and some to the food bank. Not only does it feel great to clear some things out of the house that we no longer need or use, but I can't put in words how great it is to know that someone else will be warm, or fed, or clean because we made that donation. We are very fortunate to have parents who love to spoil us and our girls at Christmas. As a result, we always have older, lesser used items we can pass along to those in need. This year, Carsen is 3 1/2. While she doesn't have a concept of what it means to be needy, we did encourage her to help us pick out some of her toys and books she doesn't play with as much, and told her we were going to give them to children who had no toys. She was totally on board and didn't make a peep about the toys getting boxed up.

Donating to local charities and helping the less fortunate in our community will continue to be a part of our holiday season as the girls grow up. In today's world of 7-year olds with cell phones, I refuse to let my children be consumed by a materialistic culture and lose sight of what the holiday season is truly about. Of course, as they get older they'll be able to participate more and will certainly understand more what it means to reach out to others. Hopefully it will help to instill in them a sense of gratitude for what they have and compassion for those who go without.

be_more_thankful What-if-you-woke-up-tomorrow-with World_full_of_miracles

always_something_thankful mostly_God take_for_granted

thank_God_for thankful_people thanks_to_all


How are you showing your gratitude this holiday season?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sleep Happens

I'm keeping it real for you today and talking about our sleep situation around here. Getting babies to sleep is one of the great mysteries of humanity. There are countless methods, doctors, experts, books, old wives tales, and advice {both solicited and unsolicited} all focused on how to get a baby to sleep. Yet, the answers seem to change every few years on what works best.

In my experience, having gone through it once with our now 3-year old and going through it currently with our 7-month old, there is no one answer. What works for one kid may not work at all for another. Every baby is different, which makes it extremely difficult to apply any blanket solution or method to all of them. For example, Carsen started on a nap schedule by the time she was 4-5 months old. She established it herself and took two almost 2-hour naps every day without a peep until she was about 1 year old when she switched to one long nap. To this day she naps every single day from 1:30-4:30, and would sleep longer if I didn't go wake her. From about 6 months old she woke up once every night around 4/4:30 to nurse and would go back to sleep until 8/8:30. Once she moved into her own room around 1 year, she slept 12 hours every night and still does. Easy!

Reagan is totally different. I have been trying to figure out her nap schedule for months. She rarely sleeps more than 30 minutes at a time during the day. You could set your watch by it. I've tried laying her down earlier, later, swaddled, un-swaddled, her room, our room {where she sleeps at night}, and I've just never found anything that seems to make any difference. Usually when she wakes up at the 30 minute mark I can give her the paci and she'll go back to sleep. Sometimes for 10 minutes, sometimes for an hour, sometimes not at all. Again, I can't seem to find any pattern or indicator as to what makes for a longer nap vs. shorter nap. Night time is another challenge of its own. For a long time she slept 8 pm - 3:30 am, and then woke up for the day around 6:30-7. Then for about a month she started waking up around 11 pm and every. two. hours. after that for the rest of the night. Brutal! Just recently, thank the Lord, she has gone back to sleeping until a wee morning hour (3-4) and then waking around 6:30 am when I pull her in bed with me to nurse {she sleeps in an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper which we LOVE} and she snoozes for another hour or so.

Like many sleep-deprived parents, I've turned to the Interwebz more than once in a moment of bleary-eyed exhaustion when I thought I just couldn't take it any more. Of course, what I found indicates that I'm doing everything wrong. Here's the list of infractions...

  • Nursing her to sleep

  • Using a pacifier

  • Using a swaddle blanket

  • Staying with her until she falls asleep

  • Picking her up when she cries {though only when other attempts fail}

  • Nursing her in the middle of the night

  • Sleeping inches away from her {in separate beds though}

Most of the advice I find suggests that nursing her to sleep will make her dependent on the boob to fall asleep, as will the pacifier and swaddle blanket, and staying with her until she falls asleep. All I'm doing with all of those things is teaching her that she can't possibly  fall asleep without them. Here's my question about that... if I did all the same detrimental things with Carsen, how did she end up being such a champion sleeper?? My answer to that is simple- all those things aren't the problem.

I mean, is there even a problem? Some argue that babies shouldn't be waking all night long. Well, she doesn't. But when she does wake up, I do something about it and we're all back to sleep in less than 10 minutes. Sure, I'd love to know what it feels like to fall asleep at 10 pm and not wake up until 6 or 7 {or 8}. I'm just not willing to put my baby through a traumatic training experience for my own luxury. She falls asleep nursing, so no, I'm not waking her up just to teach her to fall asleep in her bed instead of happily snuggled against her mama. I have zero trouble transferring her into her bed once she's asleep. Per all the "rules," I've tried not swaddling her. Instead of waking up after 30 minutes, she woke up every 6 minutes. I haven't even attempted taking the pacifier away. While she only uses it for bed/nap times, it is very clear to me that its disappearance would not go over well. The pacifier and swaddling both provide comfort and are part of the reason I can easily get her into her bed. We've also tried putting her in her crib in her own room. It was a disaster. She woke up constantly, sometimes the second I'd step my foot back in our room. If you think waking up twice a night is torture, imagine waking up twice every hour and standing bent at 90 degrees over a crib for 20 minutes soothing a crying baby only for her to start all over again less than 30 seconds after you leave the room.

So why bother with all the rules? Like myself, here's another mom who suggests trusting your instincts and listening to your baby instead. My approach to parenting, and the advice I always give new parents, is don't over-think it. I use my own common sense and Reagan's cues to determine when she needs to sleep {and all of her other needs for that matter}. If it's not in a perfect pattern, then her needs must be fluctuating at the time. As I type this, she has taken a fantastic 2.5-hour morning nap and went right out for her afternoon nap. It's been a good day, but I've done nothing any different than any other day. The inconsistency can be kind of annoying, yes, but I have to accept that that's just her. I'm sure that when her system settles into a pattern it will emerge on it's own.

In counseling, we always approach things from a standpoint of impact on daily function. Do you need an intervention if everyone is healthy and functioning even if not "by the book?" If it ain't broke.... I'm just saying. If you can't function on the amount of sleep you get and your baby seems miserable, try something different to get more sleep. But you don't need to force a baby into an expert's mold. Your sleep habits are different from other adults, so why expect that all babies will sleep the same way and for the same amount of time? Do what works best for your baby instead of fighting them for sleep, and sleep will happen.

I'll keep you posted on Reagan's sleep as it develops. In the mean time, what worked for you? Does your baby sleep all night or wake up a few times? Is your baby a napper, or not?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Weekend Humor

Do you ever mess with your kids or spouse to amuse yourself {and others}?? I grew up with a prankster brother and sister, so in our family BatDad is classic humor. My sister first discovered him and shared his antics with us one weekend when we were at my mom's for dinner. As a result, we've all been walking around doing our BatDad impressions to each other {and our kids} ever since.

This is just one of many of his videos. I highly recommend checking the others out, too :)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chicken & Butternut Squash Stew

As usual, I was surfing Pinterest for some new dinner recipes the other day. I'm big on seasonal food, so I love making soup in the fall and winter. I had a recipe for chicken & butternut squash stew pinned to my dinner board and had been anxious to try it. As it was written, though, it required a lot of standing at the stove. With two littles in the house, dinner making is enough of a challenge. I really have to simplify as much as possible and minimize the amount of time spent actually prepping and cooking. So I did the natural thing - made it in the crock pot! I have to say, it couldn't have been easier!


Here's what I used:

  • 1/2 butternut squash, peeled and diced {you could also just get a smaller one, but I just freeze the rest to use later in other recipes or baby food}

  • 2 chicken breasts

  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

  • 14.5 oz can of black beans {rinsed and drained}

  • 3 cups of chicken broth {1 full box, -1 cup}

  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

  • 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar to take the edge of the tomatoes, maple syrup would work as well if you don't like adding sugar ;)

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa

Here's what I did:
Toss everything into the crock pot except for the quinoa and 1 cup of chicken broth. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Scoop out the chicken breasts and shred them up. Then add them back to the pot. You could also cut them up into chunks from the get-go and skip this step if you prefer chunks over shreds. Then cook 1/2 cup of quinoa in the remaining 1 cup of chicken broth. Once that is cooked, add it to the soup. You're done!


This was a huge hit here in The Luckiest Household. Even my husband, who is not a big veggie guy, loved it and promptly packed up the rest in individual servings to take for his lunch. We'll definitely be making this again!

Whenever I make a new recipe I usually come up with improvements to the process or the ingredients either while I'm cooking or after tasting it. For this one, I already mentioned adapting for the crock pot instead of standing at the stove. I also eliminated a bunch of prep steps with the squash by simply dicing it and tossing it in the pot. While I loved the taste of this soup just as I made it, I also think it would be really good with some heavy cream and fresh grated parmesan cheese. Or you could spice it up with your favorite hot sauce, some red pepper flakes, or even chopped peppers right in the soup. It would be interesting to change up the meat too- pork or beef both seem like good options.

If anyone makes it, let me know how it turns out in a comment and share what (if any) variations you used! Enjoy!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Food is Medicine {for the common cold}

All of "Daddy's girls," as Carsen calls us, are on day 4 of a head cold. Maybe it's day 5. I can't keep track. The only thing worse than having a head cold is when your littles have one too. Most people with a cold just pop some pseudophedrine and get on with life. I, for one, am not a big fan of taking medicine (or giving it to my kids) unless I absolutely can't deal without it. Plus, when you're a nursing mama you have to be extra cautious about taking any medication since it could be passed on to your nursling. You also don't want to take anything that will dry up your sinuses because it will also dry up your milk supply. And of course little ones can't take cold meds at all. Instead, we rely on humidifiers, extra pillows, saline, NoseFrida, rest and fluids to battle it out.

[caption id="attachment_834" align="aligncenter" width="504"]My poor, sick Reagan baby My poor, sick Reagan baby[/caption]

But sometimes the humidifier and some extra pillows still leave you and your little ones in misery. That's where I am! Sick and tired of being sick and tired... literally. Knowing that many common foods have health-promoting, immune-boosting, anti-illness properties, I set out to find some food-based or otherwise non-medicinal head cold relief for moms and babies. Oh, and I decided to share it with you in case anyone else is looking for the same thing :)

Here are some options I found...

1. Hot "Tea" Concoction
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 wedge lemon
Bring water to a boil. Combine hot water and apple cider vinegar in a small glass or mug. Add honey and cayenne pepper. Stir well. Top off with a squeeze of lemon. Take a deep breath of the mixture, and start drinking!

2. Cinnamon + honey
Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon and take 2-3 times daily. Both are antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal. Could probably be mixed into a tea as well if you can't handle eating it right off a spoon.

3. Netti Pot
Get yourself a store-bought Netti Pot (or similar device) and follow instructions.
*Side note: I would personally boil, then cool the water before pouring it up into my sinuses just to ensure it is free of its own potentially harmful microorganisms. 

4. Homemade Chicken Broth/soup
Place a whole chicken in the crockpot with 6-8 cups of water depending on the size of your bird and your crockpot. Add vegetables and season to your liking. Cook on low until chicken is done. Remove chicken and save the broth. You can use the chicken meat and make it into soup, or simply sip the warm broth (you may want to skim it for fat/pieces, up to you). This is NOT the same as buying canned or boxed stock at the store ;) Read about the benefits of real broth here.

5. Garlic
Garlic soup (garlic cloves peeled and boiled in water), garlic tea (chopped garlic, lemon juice, honey, boiling water), lots of garlic added to your food, or even just peel and suck on a garlic clove. It's a natural immune-booster and along with your budding romance, it can kill bacteria too!

6. Electrolyte Popsicles
An easy recipe from My Whole Food Life, a blog I follow. Her recipes are vegan and all-natural. This recipe is especially for kids (it can be tough to keep them hydrated when they aren't feeling well), but adults could enjoy them just the same!
*Note: this recipe contains honey and should NOT be used for children younger than 1 year.

7. Herbal Steam
Bring water just to a boil with a few drops of essential oil mixed in. Then breathe the steam. You can place a towel over your head to trap the steam as well. Just be VERY cautious with steam/a pot of hot water to avoid burns.

8. Vapo-Rub Alternative
Skip the petroleum in store-bought Vapo-Rub by mixing a few drops of essential oil like eucalyptus or peppermint with a small amount of vegetable oil and apply to the chest or soles of baby's feet to open up the lungs.

**Disclaimer - I am not a doctor or medical professional, so please use this for information only and always consult your doctor for concerns about your health and treatment! Furthermore, I have not tried all of these methods nor am I endorsing or recommending any of them. Just sharing what I found readily available online!

Overall I found lots of recommendations including honey, lemon, ginger, and garlic used in various ways. I'm sure you could play around and create your own recipe with those ingredients and still get similar benefits. That's just my personal, non-medical opinion though. I think of these I would be most apt to try the cinnamon & honey (probably in tea) or the homemade Vapo-Rub. I'd also give the popsicles a try. I can usually tough out a cold pretty well, but it's really hard to manage two little kids with colds too. The Vapo-Rub would be great for them too. As I think of it, some essential oil in a nice warm bath might be soothing too - similar to the herbal steam, minus the danger of boiling water.

Just for interest's sake, I found some really weird suggestions too! One of them was to blow a blow dryer in your face (without burning yourself) for as long as you can stand it. What?! The hot air supposedly kills the rhinovirus in your nose. Also, cut an onion and leave it beside your bed when you sleep. It's supposed to absorb bacteria/germs.

Has anyone ever tried this stuff?? Do you know of any food-based or non-medicinal remedies for the common cold? Do you have any tried-and-true practices that help when you're sick?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Attachment Parenting and My Love for The Badass Breastfeeder

Attachment Parenting. It sounds like parents hovering hysterically over their kids, hopelessly attached and never wanting them to experience a moment of distress in their lives. But contrary to popular belief (I actually saw a published article in Parents magazine referring to it this way), it's NOT the same thing as "helicopter" parenting. Quite the opposite, actually. Based on Attachment Theory,  Attachment Parenting (let's just call it AP for simplicity) is a style of parenting that promotes strong parent-child bonds and has been proven to result in greater independence and less anxiety as children grow into adulthood. actually has a really good article explaining it here if you're interested.

I first learned about AP in undergrad when I was studying human development and child psychology as part of my teaching certification. It has been a topic near and dear to my heart ever since. My love was further reinforced during grad school when I was studying psychology and counseling. Attachment Parenting is all about being attentive and responsive to babies' needs and keeping babies and children in close proximity to their parents or primary caregivers. Think practices like baby-wearing, exclusive/extended breastfeeding on-demand, co-sleeping or room-sharing at night, gentle or alternative forms of discipline (vs. spanking, punishment, time-out, etc), and definitely no "crying-it-out." The rationale behind being so attentive is an effort to build strong and secure bonds between babies and parents. Such a bond helps babies feel safe and cared for. They know that their basic needs are being met (and vigilantly), they know that their lifeline- mom & dad- are close by, so they feel comfortable and confident exploring their world independently. Logic, not to mention our human instinct, tells us that since mom & dad are baby's lifeline, when they are present and attentive baby's stress level is going to be low. When mom & dad are absent or inattentive, baby will feel anxious and fearful. They're uncertain about their basic needs being met, much less any risk-taking or exploration of the world around them. Ever wonder why parents agonize so much about leaving their babies for the first time at daycare, or leaving them to cry-it-out for sleep training? It's because it goes against our instincts as parents to leave our children and not respond to them. This is not to say that parents who sleep train or utilize daycare are bad parents or are psychologically damaging their kids. People do what they have to do. The overall key factor is making sure babies know their needs will be met, either by parents or other caregivers if they're at daycare.

For me personally, this style of parenting makes the most sense. I love and use AP because I believe in parenting by my instincts and the way God/nature intended. When my baby cries, there's a need, and it's my job to address her needs. Naturally children who are too young to care for themselves are going to want to be in close proximity to those who provide for their needs and will feel fear and anxiety when they're separated. I also believe in the research that indicates this style of parenting results in less stress and anxiety for both babies and parents and the long-term positive impact it has on development. Yes, research has proven that the way we respond to babies affects the way their nervous system develops, and therefore affects them for life. They may not remember crying it out, but that experience could be something that sticks with them into adulthood. Nurturing that part of my kids' development is just as much a priority to me as feeding them nourishing food and keeping them safe and warm. AP also just works really well for me as a stay-at-home mom. We don't have to separate for daycare in the morning, I don't have to sleep train so I can get up on time for work, etc. This isn't the case for every family, and I believe just as strongly that families should do what works for them.

So as a mom, counselor, and practitioner of AP, you can imagine my joy when I was browsing Facebook one day and came upon The Badass Breastfeeder: a mom, former social worker and huge proponent of AP. As a former Social Worker, our professional backgrounds are very similar and we happen have a lot in common philosophically. She's an awesome resource, very smart, very practical, and totally inspiring. If those things weren't enough, my respect for her maxed out when I read this story about how she still struggles not to lose her shit sometimes. I'm all about being real and putting the real stories out there. We all struggle! Sometimes reading blogs and Facebook pages and other such resources out there in the Mommy-sphere can be so discouraging because all we see are glowing, shining moments of perfect parenting. I don't care how many great moments you have, no one's parenting experience is sparkling all the time. We give it our best, and that is the most important thing. Some days that looks like Cheerios and Disney Jr., some days it looks like gourmet organic lunches and making crafts for charity. Currently the girls and I all have colds, so we're closer to the Cheerios and Disney Jr. end of the spectrum. It happens!

Here's to giving it our best!

PS- If you have a favorite parenting resource or parenting style, share it in a comment!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Fresh Start

Welcome to the new blog! I hope you like it here and will come visit often :)  This is both a continuation of my previous blog and new direction for it as well. My old posts have all been moved here, but I consider this post a turning point. Moving forward I'd like the blog to be focused on some specific topics- marriage, parenting, health, photography, cooking, DIY projects, homeschooling, and some other stuff in between. I realize that is a wide range of topics, but rather than just sharing our day-to-day happenings in the style of a journal as I did on the old blog, my goal here is to share our stories and experiences, in addition to news articles, photos, links to other related blogs and websites, and possibly some guest posts that are especially relevant to my life as a SAHM, and hopefully to other moms, too. Instead of simply a collection of ramblings about our family, I hope that giving the blog a clearer focus will make it more relatable, useful, and helpful to others. Additionally, if you followed/read the old blog, you probably noticed that I also updated the title from "The Luckiest." I felt that an updated title was appropriate since this is a fresh start, and since I'm in a different stage of my life now than when I first started blogging almost 7 years ago!

I'm really looking forward to this new version of my blog and all the fun things I have in mind to write about. Please stay tuned and check back often. I'm currently working on a post about attachment parenting that I hope to share by the end of the week :)

Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Half of It: My 13.1 Mile Tour of Charm City

This is the story of my half marathon. Everyone has asked, "How was it!?" So here it is, a recap of race day.

Let me set the stage for you a little bit to accurately convey the overall mood on race day.... You might recall from my last post that the weather was going to be questionable for race day and we weren't sure if Josh and the girls would be there. Well, the forecast remained the same, but in addition, Josh's car broke down on Wednesday night. And by broke down, I mean $5,000 worth of broke down. If the rain wasn't enough of a question mark, having only one car put the final nail in that coffin. I would be there alone, in the rain.

{A little bit of blue sky toying with my emotions}


{Breakfast of champions, mediocre half-marathoners, me}


As you can imagine, when I woke up on race day my enthusiasm was non existent. I had no desire to run this race, I just wanted to get it over with so I could go home. I arrived downtown around 6:30 so I could park in the free lots right near the finish line and just waited around for a little while since my race didn't start until 9:45. When I walked over to the finish line area where all the festivities were happening I immediately ran into my friend Alexis and her parents. That, and the fact that it wasn't raining, made things much better.


Finally at 9:45 it was time to get in position for the start of the race. It was a huge crowd, so I didn't actually cross the start line until 10:00. Once we got going my mood really improved and I was able to enjoy the run. I was so impressed by the number of people who came out to stand along the sidewalk and cheer us on. Some people had signs, some people just cheered, some played music on their car stereos {lots of "Eye of the Tiger"}. The little kids with their hands up for high-fives were definitely my favorite. I will say that the people sitting on their front steps in pajamas sipping coffee annoyed me a little, but I had to remind myself that I was on mile 6 while they were still in pajamas and that made me much more awesome. And to add to my enjoyment, the weather ended up being perfect. It was right around 60 degrees and just the lightest mist fell only as we ran down Eutaw street into Camden Yards and across the finish line. 

Here's the full official route... {sorry it's a screen shot off my phone}

I had my phone app going while I ran so I could see my splits after the race. Sadly, my phone died at 10.5 miles, but up to that point I was keeping a steady 12 minute mile which I was happy with. Apparently that's where I hit my wall though because my finish time was 3:02. Had I kept that pace I would have finished at about 2:35. I know I was feeling the miles there at the end and did more walking than I wanted to. My feet actually hurt more than anything which may be an indication that it's time for a new pair of shoes. I can't really complain for a first race though, especially considering that I trained and raced on pretty minimal sleep.

Yes. I ran 13.1 miles for this medal and a shirt.

Just kidding, I did it for bragging rights.

Of course, the second question everyone asked was "Are you going to do another one??" My response to that is- today is not the time to decide. I mean, it was great and I had fun and I'm glad I did it. It was a lot of time dedicated to training though, and I'm not sure when/if I'll feel like doing that again. Part of me is totally fine knowing I did it and I'm capable. Part of me is a teeny bit curious how it would have gone if i had been able to train a little better and had gotten adequate sleep. Maybe we'll find out, maybe we'll never know. You'll just have to stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

5 Things I Learned While Training for a Half Marathon

Well here we are just three days away from race day. It's hard to believe its really time already. I feel like I've been training forever. It has actually been a long time. I started training in spring 2012 originally planning to run that fall. Then I got pregnant and decided to wait until this year. I started training again at the beginning of July when Reagan was about 3 months old. Throughout my training I learned a lot about myself as a runner. Here are five things I learned from training that I thought were interesting enough to share.

1. I don't love distance running.
I sort of knew this anyway, but somehow I hoped that I would grow to love it more. Don't get me wrong- I love being a runner. I love accomplishing things I didn't think I could. I enjoy the feeling of having completed a good, hard run. I especially love noticing myself getting better and better. I do not love devoting so much of my time to running when I'd rather be with my family or just doing other things. I don't love waking up early on weekends because that's the only time I have 2 hours to spend running. Surprisingly, it's not the 2 hour run that bothers me, it's trying to schedule it with everything else we have going on on weekends and what I'm missing while I'm gone.

2. Anything becomes less fun when it's an obligation.
I enjoyed running way more before I "had" to do it for training. Instead of running because I feel like it or because it's a nice day, I'm running because it's required. If I don't, I'll be ill-prepared for the race or risk injury. I have to schedule runs even when it's inconvenient, run when I'm not feeling well, run when my baby had me up half the night... because I have to. It starts to be something I resent for taking me away form morning snuggles, interrupting my social plans, forcing me to do something I don't feel up for doing. Even though I obligated myself, it's still an obligation. I much prefer running for fun. This is also still pre-race, so maybe I'll enjoy the race enough to obligate myself again sometime.

3. Expect the unexpected. Nothing goes according to plan.
I planned to run this race a long time ago. I thought once I was cleared to resume normal exercise after Reagan was born that I'd be ready to start running. Well, I was. Reagan had different plans though. I figured she'd be sleeping a lot and it would be easy to let her sleep in a bouncy seat or the bassinet in our pack-n-play while I ran on the treadmill. That didn't happen. She's not a good sleeper. It took forever just to get her on a nap schedule and even now her naps vary in length depending on the day. Beyond that, the training I was able to manage was interrupted by a random mid-summer upper respiratory infection which left me with a hacking cough for about 2 months, an infected toe which required antibiotics and about a week with no running, and while I'm fairly accustomed to doing most daily activities on little to no sleep, running any distance isn't one of them. When I went out for my 10 mile training run I had a total of 6 hours of sleep during which Reagan woke up three times. It didn't go well. These are all things I couldn't have {and didn't} anticipate. They were difficult to work through and I know they've negatively impacted my training. Fortunately, I only set out with a goal of finishing the race, and I'm positive I can manage that.

If those things weren't enough, now there is a serious threat of rain for race day. I'm not sure what the threshold is for cancellation due to weather but I imagine it's pretty high. There would be a whole lot of angry people if they cancelled for sprinkles. Cancelation would be the worst case scenario because it would have all been for nothing and I'd lose my entry fee. I can handle running in the rain. The downside to that is that Josh and the girls won't be there. While Reagan is still very young, Carsen is really into running. She loves it. She always wants to go running with me when I go, and that's her very favorite thing to do when we play outside. All along, from the very beginning of my training, I wanted her to see me finish the race. That's what I envisioned when I needed motivation. My girls are 99% of my reason for running in the first place. It's going to take a lot of wind out of my sail if they aren't there. Crossing the finish line with no one there and just getting in my car and going home would be a serious buzz kill. It is what it is. You just can't plan this kind of stuff.

4. Logistics are the hardest part.
If you think running 13.1 miles sounds intimidating, you don't know the half of it {terrible pun intended, ha!}. When I think about this race, I'm much less concerned about the actual running than I am about transportation and parking, what I'm going to eat for breakfast and when, where Josh and the kids will park, what time they need to arrive, if I pumped enough for Reagan to eat from the time I need to leave waaaaay early in the morning until I see her again after the race, where they'll be after the race and if they'll get to see me cross the finish line, what if it rains?? And those are just a few. If all I had to do was run, I'd be fine. It's all the other stuff that makes it complicated and stresses me out. If I have any nerves on race day it will be over logistics.

5. You can do it.
I never thought I could run 13.1 miles. For a long time I didn't think I could run 5 miles. Only when I put my mind to trying did I realize that I most certainly can. That's not to say it's easy, just that it mostly just takes deciding to do it in order to be able to. When I see people much older than I am, or much younger, or heavier, or pushing 3 kids in a jogger, or missing limbs out running, rest assured it can be done. If they can do it, you can do it, and I can do it. Maybe it's a cliche, but I honestly believe that. Try. You'll see.

Time to chug some water and get some sleep. Wish me luck!

Friday, October 4, 2013

One of Those Mornings

You know the ones... the baby wakes up to eat at 5 (after eating at 3:30), then you spend two hours trying to convince her to go back to sleep before giving up and starting the day with a headache and a giant cup of coffee, knowing that there is nothing but fussiness and screeching ahead of you since the 6-month old decided to start her day at 5 am and has a check up (including shots) scheduled at 9. You know... those mornings.

I went about throwing myself together, dressing the baby, and tossing Carsen's clothes on her bed without saying a word. I hauled Reagan downstairs with me and sat her in her exersaucer while I got breakfast ready for Carsen and myself. Then, just when I'm convinced that this is going to be one long, miserable day, while I slammed things around in the kitchen I had a moment. I looked around and this is what the girls were doing...

Clearly there was nothing actually wrong with my day except for my bad attitude. After being snapped back into reality, I decided that a little change in perspective could make all the difference today. It was going to be a good day because I was going to make it a good one. Instead of my precious sleep being cut short, I had extra precious time with my babies. Instead of Reagan fussing at me for 2 hours because she hates when I sleep (sometimes I actually wonder this), she just wanted to spend time with her mama. One day too soon those mornings of waking up to her smiling pink cheeks will just be memories so instead of being irritated, I decided to be thankful. Instead of having one of those mornings, it became one of those mornings when I can't believe how blessed I am.

Happy Friday :)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Fall Is Not My Season

You know when you have a negative/difficult/painful experience and it kind of haunts {no pun intended} that time of year for you? When that month or season rolls around again you get kind of anxious and some of the feelings you had related to that experience start to creep back into your head. That is now fall for me. I don't love fall to begin with. It's nothing about fall specifically that I dislike, it's actually quite a beautiful season, but it's both a signal of the end of summer and the impeding doom of winter {post-holidays, anyway}. Last fall was not good for me. And this year as fall quietly overtakes my beloved summer, I'm anxious. It's not that I expect the same things to happen all over again, I'm just reminded of them. Everything about fall is reminding me of what was going on this time last year. I just wanted fall to rush by so I could get to the holidays and have something happy to focus on. Of course, this is a new year with new things going on. There's lots of great, exciting stuff to look forward to, but also stuff I'm pretending isn't there. I find myself hoping to just breeze past fall and wake up one day happily on the other side. That can happen in real life, right?

In an effort to focus on the positive and not miss out on life, here's what I'm excited about this fall...
- I'm running my first half marathon in 2 weeks. Bonus: loving my long runs outside in the fall weather!
- I'm doing a Montessori-style preschool program {self-designed, nothing official} with Carsen, she is loving it. I'll write more on it later.
- Reagan is about to hit some really fun milestones. She started sitting on her own this week, she has a tooth, she has started babbling (bababa and mamama) and we're starting foods next week. Between now and Christmas she'll likely be crawling :)
- The roughly dozen birthdays we celebrate between our two families starting in October
- Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch with all the kids in my family. Seriously one of my favorite days of the year.
- Another holiday season full of family gatherings and yummy food :)
- Making priceless happy memories to help me feel better about fall again

Deep breath. I can do this. Here we go...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Summer Recap

I can't believe summer is officially over in two days. Even though it happens every year, I still get a knot in my stomach. I wait so long {9 months to be exact} for summer and then it's over in a blink {3 months to be exact}. It's like saying goodbye to a dear friend you know you'll see again, just not soon enough. Gah.

Sooo, might as well take a look back at how awesome summer was before it disappears for the next 9 months.

We went to the zoo on half-price night!

Went to a few weddings

(Carsen was a flower girl in one!)

Celebrated a few birthdays

Did some crafty things like make our own sidewalk chalk

Did just the right amount of snuggling

Tried some new recipes

Met a new cousin

Went to story time

Hung out at the park

and hung out at Oriole Park

Spent time with Great-Grandparents (Reagan met them for the first time)

Went on an amazing vacation

And Carsen started ballet!

AND since there's one more day of summer, I will add that my family's annual reunion picnic is tomorrow. I can't think of a better way to officially end my summer than a day spent outside eating awesome food and hanging out with my whole family :D

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vacation Preparation

We are very excited to once again be taking a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with my family this year! We had so much fun last time and have basically been planning this trip ever since. So being just 2 1/2 weeks out, we're in full preparation mode around here!

Two years ago we were taking a 15-month old. This time we'll have an almost 3.5-year old and a 5 month old. Thankfully we also have a bigger vehicle to travel in this time! Space is far from the only consideration for traveling with little ones though. Here's how I'm preparing for the trip to ensure minimum stress and maximum relaxation!

Packing list: The key to making sure you leave the house with all necessities is a detailed packing list made well in advance of the trip. I like to make my list ahead of time when I'm thinking clearly and I'm less likely to forget something.  I also divide and sub-divide the packing list by categories such as food (frozen, car/beach snacks, etc), entertainment, clothing, gear, and hygiene for visual simplicity when it's time to pack. It's actually more of a chart than a list, but it's beautiful and oh-so-helpful :) 

To-do Timeline: A to-do list is kind of a no-brainer when it comes to vacation prep, but I like mine in timeline form so I can work on tasks in a logical order and make sure everything gets done on time. Aside from packing, some of the other stuff on my list includes making and freezing foods to take, making some games to amuse Carsen in the car, picking up some beach-themed library books for Carsen, configuring the trunk, and loading up the iPod. I break the tasks down by week for about 3 weeks leading up to the trip. Things like loading up the iPod can be done any time so do I them well in advance, while I prefer to save food prep until the week before so it's just that much fresher. The best part is that I'm not left with last minute items to stress me out, or things I wanted to do but ran out of time for. 

Trunk Configuration: when traveling with little kids there's a certain amount of gear that has to come along... strollers, pack 'n plays, etc. Why wait until 4 a.m. on the day we're leaving to discover that some things aren't going to fit? We have a big square(ish) trunk, so it's easy enough to measure it out and plan where to pack things in order to make sure it all fits. Bonus: loading up that morning becomes a quick and easy process.

All this being said, we're now at the end of the 3rd week out. And of course life goes on all the while. We have a wedding this weekend that Carsen is the flower girl for, and for part of next week and all of next weekend Josh's grandparents will be visiting and meeting Reagan for the first time. Thankfully, I got my stuff done for this week. I made a felt Mr. Potato Head, some popsicle stick puzzles (I used some of my Instagram photos of us), and popsicle stick shape-makers for Carsen to play with on the car ride. I've also planned out snacks to make for the car ride and the beach, as well as breakfast foods to make ahead, and what I'm going to make for our dinner night. Stay tuned for more details on all those things. Two weeks left until we leave :) 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What's for "Pinner?"

For the next two weeks we'll be eating "Pinner"... Pinterest-inspired dinners!

These are all recipes from my Pinterest dinner board and all recipes we've never tried before (except the enchiladas, which are a tried-and-true Pinterest dinner). You're probably wondering how six meals are going to make two weeks worth of dinners. Here's how my system works...

Monday: cook
Tuesday: cook
Wednesday: cook
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: take-out
Saturday: breakfast for dinner (if we're home)
Sunday: big dinner at my mom's house

So technically I only cook three original meals per week. It's a great system. I love that we eat our leftovers so they don't get wasted. Bonus: our fridge stays clean and uncluttered! Rarely am I pulling a container of mystery food from the back weeks after it was put in there. It's also a night I don't have to start a new meal from scratch so it saves time. It also saves money both in that we're not wasting food, and that I'm not buying groceries for 5+ new meals every week. 

Rather than six individual posts, I'll write one big one at the end to let you know how our "Pinners" turned out, including photos, links to the recipes we used, and our reviews. Stay tuned!